Around his neighborhood in East Baltimore, Craig Addison became known for his way with computers. Whether it was creating forms for churches or networking, he developed a knack for solving problems, and learning the necessary steps on his own.
This interest started from an early age, when Addison was growing up in the 1980s.
“When everyone was getting Ataris and Super Nintendos, I asked my pops to get me a computer,” the 40-year-old said. He liked figuring out how it worked: taking it apart and putting it back together, and seeing how far he could take his skills in the meantime.
It brought a realization that continues to guide him: “With tech skills, it’s really unlimited what you can do,” he said.
At jobs he got along the way, Addison started to solve problems that could help a business, like creating a database to track deliveries at a pharmacy.
“If something broke in the office, I would be the first one to volunteer to fix it and add new devices to the network,” he said. “Eventually, I got a reputation for being technical and being able to get things done.”
Bolstered by experience working for attorneys’ offices, he mastered Windows, from Office to networking to troubleshooting. Later, he completed a college degree, which helped him learn industry best practices, and gained corporate training experience.
Addison has also been a volunteer in church and community organizations over the years, and he recognized how tech skills led to opportunity in his own life. He also saw how they could lead to careers broadly in neighborhoods like the one where he grew up.
“I’ve seen the ups and downs, but I’ve also seen the potential,” he said. That potential, he said, lies in providing the kind of training that offers skills, as well as the necessary certifications and credentials that can lead to careers.
It was training that he didn’t have coming up, but now he’s part of an effort to provide it: In August, Addison started a new role as an instructor with tech inclusion organization Byte Back, a D.C.-founded nonprofit offering digital skills training that expanded to Baltimore last year.
The org is growing a presence in the city via partnerships with organizations in the community. It’s holding classes at locations like South Baltimore Learning Center, where Addison teaches, and plans to launch at Strong City Baltimore Adult Learning Center in March.
It is also partnering with Green Street Academy, the career prep-minded public charter school in West Baltimore, to incorporate its IT Professional Track (and CompTIA certifications that come with it) into high school curriculum. This year, it plans to hire more instructors and form a local advisory council to guide further growth.
Baltimore Site Director Chrissie Powell said the organization sees its work as “helping to change the landscape of opportunities for Black communities in Baltimore.”
“For years, tech advances have been leaving people like our students behind,” Powell said. “Our goal is to shift the opportunity gap and help adult learners move into living-wage careers that use technology.”
Addison is now an instructor of the organization’s recently launched classes at Open Works, a makerspace on Greenmount Avenue that’s not far from where he grew up. The org is holding an info session for the free Microsoft Office specialist certification course there on March 2.
With more training, Addison believes Byte Back can help to attract more companies to the area in a time when tech talent is highly sought by a company in lots of industries: He sees the org as “providing that bank of potential employees that have the necessary skills that those employers are going to look for when they consider Baltimore.”
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